Supply Chain, Freight Legislation on Congress’ Summer Agenda

Truck Parking and Rail Safety Bills in Lineup
freight rail
Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell is calling on colleagues to support the Railway Safety Act.(Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

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A series of bills meant to expedite supply chain operations and improve freight rail safety await consideration in the U.S. House and the Senate.

Committee-passed legislation tackling truck parking concerns, the infrastructure permitting process and regulations central to the supply chain are expected to be called up for a vote this summer in the House chamber.

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act was among the bills that gained approval during consideration before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on May 23. The panel also advanced policy updates related to freight and commercial corridors.

The bipartisan parking legislation was sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.). “I grew up in a family trucking business,” Bost said after the committee’s approval of the bill. “I understand how difficult, and oftentimes dangerous, it can be when America’s truckers are forced to park in an unsafe location.”

“By expanding access to parking options for truckers, we are making our roads safer for all commuters and ensuring that goods and supplies are shipped to market in the most efficient way possible,” Bost added.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) are leading the effort to advance a companion bill. The Senate bill’s committee consideration has yet to be scheduled.

The Biden administration has acknowledged multiple benefits associated with expanding parking access for truckers.

“When I’m talking to drivers, this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issues that I hear about,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Transport Topics last month. The freight sector also has repeatedly sounded the alarm over a lack of parking for commercial drivers. The American Transportation Research Institute, or ATRI, ranked inadequate access to parking third on its “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” in 2022.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is again calling on colleagues to support the Railway Safety Act. She cited recent data and a map prepared by the National League of Cities regarding train derailments. “Communities nationwide are subjected to derailments every day, and it’s only a matter of time before the next disaster like East Palestine happens,” Cantwell said on June 7. “This new map by the National League of Cities shows exactly why it is time for the Senate to get on board and pass the bipartisan Railway Safety Act.”

The freight rail bill’s consideration has yet to be scheduled by Senate Democratic leaders. The bill, which the Commerce panel approved in May by a 16-11 vote, responds to a major freight rail derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Specifically, it is designed to promote the safe transport of freight along rail lines by partly targeting guidance at agencies, such as the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The bill also would mandate the use of certain defect-detection technology as well as equip state agencies with additional information regarding the type of hazardous materials transported by rail. Sponsors include Ohio Sens. J.D. Vance (R) and Sherrod Brown (D). “We built a broad, bipartisan coalition that agree on these common-sense safety measures that will finally hold big railroad companies like Norfolk Southern accountable,” Brown said last month.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) renewed his criticism of freight rail operations amid a federal review of Norfolk Southern’s operations. “Years of deregulation and wanton acts of corporate greed have led to an industry that simply does not value safety,” Schumer said June 7.

After the bill’s introduction, President Joe Biden noted, “We need to do even more, like require state-of-the-art braking systems, provide more funding for federal safety inspections, invest in worker safety, fortify state emergency management and response, and hold companies like Norfolk Southern accountable not just for the immediate damage, but also the long-term health and economic damage to communities like East Palestine.”